It is probably true to say that Adam and Eve were the first to walk 'with God'. Genesis 3.8 records that the Lord God was walking among the trees in the cool of the day. The reference is brief but it conjures up a picture of the first human pair enjoying the company of their Creator before they placed a barrier between Him and them ‑ the barrier of sin. We really don't know how Adam and Eve lived or how long they enjoyed the bliss of living in the presence of God with a real awareness of His personal fellowship. What we do know is that some of His closest friends have left a record of their friendship with God and their walks with Him.
The first record of anyone 'walking with God' is the brief reference in Genesis 5.24. It is probably a metaphorical use of the verb 'to walk' that really refers to 'living' with God. This use of the word walking as a metaphor for 'living' occurs, for example, in Paul's letter to the Church at Ephesus (chapter 5) .
Three angels arrived at Abraham and Sarah's homestead to tell them that they were about to have a son (Gen.19). It was the occasion when Sarah laughed at such a possibility. After devouring a good meal of calf and bread, the visitors then walked with Abraham to the escarpment overlooking the Jordan valley. Two of the three 'men' went on to the 'cities of the plain'. while the third talked with Abraham. He interceded with the LORD for the wicked cities, that He would not destroy them if some righteous people could be found in them. Abraham was addressing 'Yahweh' yet he was in the presence of a messenger from Him. That the patriarch was actually seeing the Eternal God is impossible according to Moses, Jesus and Paul (Ex.33.20; John 1.18; 1Tim.6.16) for they said no man can see God. May we conclude that a direct representative of God who has come from His presence, should be addressed as if God Himself was being addressed. In this walk Abraham will have learned something of God's mercy. It would be interesting to know what Abraham learned about God in his walk with Him from Ur to Hebron and how that affected his own character.
The life of Moses makes this clearer. Just when the man who became Israel's leader began to live consciously in the presence of God is not easy to pin point. It appears to have been when he was at the burning bush and stood in the presence of the One who revealed Himself as 'I am who I am' or 'I will be who I will be'. It was an extraordinary one hundred and twenty years by any standard and like Abraham's life it was pivotal in the purpose of God. No one in historical record until Messiah came, had greater contact with God and learned so much about the character of God. Moses was transformed by his wonderful experiences on the mountain and Paul referred to them in 2 Cor.3. Moses had several walks up the mountains of Sinai ‑ to collect the tablets of stone bearing the Ten Commandments, to plead with God for Israel after they worshipped the golden calf and to see the glory of the Lord. It was on the last of these excursions that Moses discovered that God's glory was in His wonderful character of compassion. He learned, what so many Christians have failed to discover ‑ and still fail to appreciate ‑ that before anything else, to be God-like is to be forgiving ‑ forbearing ‑ merciful in character. This is evident when Miriam rebelled against Moses and he interceded for her (Num.12). God's love was reflected most in Jesus' life. What a difference to world history it would have been if God's people both before and after Christ came could have learned the lesson.
The Old Testament records other men and women who walked with God. Elijah had a remarkable walk in which the presence of God was very evident. He walked to the River Cherith and there God provided food at the 'hands' of bird's claws. He walked on to Zarephath and that was extraordinary because he was then in the land from which so much trouble had come to Israel and had infected God's people with Baal worship. But God was with Elijah and Jesus referred to the story in His comments to the people of Nazareth in their synagogue (Luke 4). Elijah seems to have enjoyed an exciting life and challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest on Carmel and God saw to it that he won. Yet when his life was threatened there was an extraordinary reaction and he made a run for it. With a respite on the way he ran to Horeb. There he discovered that God was not always in the exciting adventures in nature ‑ wind, earthquake and fire ‑ but in the 'still small voice'. And then he walked with God to find Elisha and on until he found a chariot that took him in triumph into the clouds.
A few centuries later, Jeremiah had a long walk from the land of Israel to the River Euphrates (Jer.13.1-7). God first told him to buy a waistcloth and wear it. Later he was told to take waistcloth and hide in a cleft of a rock beside the great river. He must have gone home to Israel but later was told to go again and dig up the hidden waistcloth. Jeremiah went again to the river to find his piece of clothing and take it back to the land of Israel He saw that the garment was no longer fit to wear.. So, said God, will Israel be ruined because of her unfaithfulness to me. It was a remarkable acted parable and must have been very painful to Jeremiah who so loved God and His people. But the prophet learned that God loved His people too and would bring them back again after 70 years, a promise that Daniel and his fellow exiles watched for most carefully. Jeremiah walked all through his life with his God and discovered more than most others about Him. He recognised the godly characteristics of good King Josiah recorded in Jer.22.15,16 ‑ that taking care of the needy was to be like God. World leaders give lip service to that concept but do little about it. But then they do not have the wisdom of God as Jeremiah revealed in Jer.9.23,24 and which Paul quoted in 1 Cor.1. "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in His riches, but let him who glories, glory in this that he understands and knows me, that I the Lord practice steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight says the Lord." Few have reached the heights of character that matured in sufferings and perhaps in his final walk to Egypt. But some people recognised something of this man because when Jesus came showing his Godlike compassion he was confused with Jeremiah (Matt.16.14)
Ezra was one of those who followed Jeremiah's route from Babylon to Israel and discovered that through faithful prayer, God would protect him better than the army of an Empire. (Ezra 8. 22,23). Ezra had a remarkable part to play in restoring Judah's faith in God after their return to their own land but failed to progress with restoration. He read and taught the Word of God to the people and may have had a part in establishing the canon of Old Testament Scripture. Like others before Him, He walked with the God of Israel and learned to trust Him and was thereby able to explain God's revelation of Himself to His people.
Men and women of God walked with Him and became like Him. Their knowledge of God and His purposes was very limited ‑ like ours ‑ but their obedience and faithfulness yielded a rich harvest in the understanding of the Creator Himself. Much could be written of those who walked the highways and byways of Galilee and Judah, Sidon and the Decapolis with the Son of God. How they had to learn compassion rather than judgment on the Samaritan village, humility instead of wanting to be the most important among the disciples. The men seemed to have learned more slowly than the women folk that the Messiah's route to glory was by way of suffering and denial. But the Acts of Apostles reveals how the lesson was learned and that it is 'who you know' rather than 'what you know' that really counts in the long run.